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The Heart of the Believer 19 April 2008

Posted by EDITOR in ABD, GUESTS, Psychology, Relationships, Spirituality.
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Our guest contributor this week is ABD, a student of political theory and a one-time regular at othermatters.org.

The heart of the believer is between two fingers of the Merciful.

– Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace (Muslim, Ahmad)

The women at the table in front of me—sisters, mother, date—lean in when he speaks. He wears glasses and a nervous, half-embarrassed smile. He may not stand out at a different table, but he holds court here. There is an attentiveness to him that has nothing to do with him. He is a window, a tuning fork, a string of lights out into the bay.

There is something that man has that woman needs. There is something that woman has that man needs. That is the way and the way out.

At his wedding rehearsal dinner, a friend of mine said that the two things he always searched for in life were God and love. It is only later that I recognize the connection between the two. Both passion and spiritual intelligence find their home in the heart. It is a restless bed of longing.

The woman at the table next to me is waiting for her father to respond to her letters. He refuses to write, she refuses to give up: they are both survivors of a sort.

I think back to an Urdu television drama, where a bereft young lover turns to his chowkidar, literally the gatekeeper of his house, for advice. In the late hours of the night, the chowkidar tells him to recite the Qur’an. The director makes a big deal about the young man making wudu’, turning to the Qur’an and reciting with a tremulous voice. What a strange—even jarring—connection, I thought then (it doesn’t seem so jarring now). He doesn’t get the girl in the end, I think, but that’s only a failure if God was meant to lead him to woman rather than the other way around.

The Arabic word for heart is qalb, and its root verb qalaba means to turn. Inqilab, or revolution (an overturning), comes to us from the same root. So does the word muqallib, or Turner—aptly the address for God in the Prophetic supplication that brings us back to where we began:

Ya muqallib al-qulub, thabbit qulubana ‘ala ta’atik.
O Turner of the hearts, make our hearts firm in Your obedience.

– Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace (Muslim)

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Comments»

1. VARANGALI - 19 April 2008

Salam ABD,

Love is a continuum that includes our conception of God and our relationship with him, and through that continuum we (in the best way) establish our relationships with the other gender. This is a beautiful idea.

The semi-awkward man that holds court is the center of attention because he is channeling that continuum. But when I think of God, I think of both love and fear. Put reductively, love+fear=awe. And aren’t we always in awe of the Divine? The semi-awkward man is effectively channeling that awe – then how come the “mother, sisters, date” only feel love in the surrounding air, not fear? Is there a place for fear in cross-gender relations?

2. Anonymous - 19 April 2008

salam, this seems like half of a thought…. is it?

3. electromagnetic - 19 April 2008

This is powerful.

I think I need to watch an Urdu television drama.

4. Anonymous - 22 April 2008

My favorite:

“There is something that man has that woman needs. There is something that woman has that man needs. That is the way and the way out.”

Question: How does one know which one has what one needs. How does one know it is time to take the way out? Can one’s relationship with Allah (SWT) make this question easier to answer?

5. ABD - 26 April 2008

wa alaykum as-salam.

VARANGALI: i don’t know whether it’s a continuum or not—i.e., human longing may simply an analog or sign for spiritual longing. nor am i sure where fear fits within human relations. but you’ve got me thinking.

Anonymous: if there’s an unfinished character to this piece, i would say that’s true for most of my writing: i don’t see blogging as creating a work of art but rather as chasing an insight around the room. perhaps this one was more scattered than most.

electromagnetic: i’m glad you found something here. i’d point you to the television drama, but i don’t even remember its name; i just remember that particular scene.

Anonymous (2): whoever has the answer to your question could probably make a lot of money. but if i am correct in saying man (rather than a man) and woman (rather than a woman), then a couple of implications follow:

a) there may be a number of possible mates with whom we are compatible and offer us what we need (as opposed to one soulmate);

b) something of this can also be found in the non-romantic attachments we have with the men and women already in our lives, which is a blessing not to be discounted;

and of course, as persons of faith, we always have God—both as support in seeking out human company and as an object of longing in His own right.

in each of these ways, the question of “which one?” loses some of its edge. and God knows best.

6. ANNA - 27 April 2008

As-salaamu alaikum, ABD.

There are two lines here which I would call my favorite: one, because of its poetics; the other, because of its message. The first is: “Both passion and spiritual intelligence find their home in the heart. It is a restless bed of longing.” The second is “He doesn’t get the girl in the end, I think, but that’s only a failure if God was meant to lead him to woman rather than the other way around.” This is the line that made me want to write, to say something.

A few times in the past two days, I have had occasion to hear scholars discussing the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Within the sermon, the characteristics of love between believing people are given considerable weight. Brothers are told to be kind to their wives, and are reminded that their wives serve as their partners and committed helpers. I pray that I am right in believing that this need for kindness extends to sisters (when dealing with their husbands) too.

It seems clear to me from this sermon (in which, we should remember, we are also told of the universal brotherhood of man, of the importance of prayer, of our duty to make Hajj if we can, etc) that through the practice of love for his (or her) spouse, a person has the opportunity to move closer to the divine.

What a perfectly wonderful way to be turned.

7. Muslimah X - 28 April 2008

WRT the relationship between love of God and love for other people I am reminded of the Hadith Qudsi wherein Allah (SWT) connects His love for His servant with the love this servant receives from others:

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
If Allah has loved a servant [of His] He calls Gabriel (on whom be peace) and says: I love So-and-so, therefore love him. He (the Prophet peace be upon him) said: So Gabriel loves him. Then he (Gabriel) calls out in heaven, saying: Allah loves So-and-so, therefore love him. And the inhabitants of heaven love him. He (the Prophet peace be upon him) said: Then acceptance is established for him on earth. And if Allah has abhorred a servant [of His], He calls Gabriel and says: I abhor So-and-so, therefore abhor him. So Gabriel abhors him. Then Gabriel calls out to the inhabitants of heaven: Allah abhors So-and-so, therefore abhor him. He (the Prophet peace be upon him) said: So they abhor him, and abhorrence is established for him on earth.

It was related by Muslim (also by al-Bukhari, Malik, and at-Tirmidhi).

8. Muslimah X - 28 April 2008

One might then ask, “And how does one ensure that they are loved by Allah (SWT)?” Certainly there are several ways enumerated in the Qur’an and through the hadith of the Prophet (SAW). The way suggested in this Hadith Qudsi is one that lingers in my mind:

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said:
Whosoever shows enmity to someone devoted to Me, I shall be at war with him. My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him.

It was related by al-Bukhari.

9. ABD - 30 April 2008

wa alaykum as-salam, ANNA and Muslimah X.

thank you for adding to the discussion. in fact, you both raise a point that i didn’t cover in my post and frankly don’t have the resources to address: God’s love for us. this is a different matter than our love for God (i.e., what my original post was about), and yet the two are not unrelated. the believer’s heart not only seeks God but is controlled by Him. this quickly gets complicated, of course (does God create our love for Him?), so i’ll leave it at that.

ya muqallib al-qulub, thabbit qulubana ‘ala ta’atik.


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